ON-Lion Letter

For Survey of Parental Rights and Responsibilities in School Choice Laws, new from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., resident fellow Gerard Robinson examines how school-choice legislation measures up to the goal of empowering parents to be thoughtful advocates for their children's education rather than passive consumers.

Motivated by a desire to strengthen school-choice programs across the nation, Robinson and his colleagues at AEI analyzed the number of times "parent" is mentioned in 102 choice laws -- including 43 charter-school laws, 25 voucher laws, 20 tax-credit laws, nine tax-deduction laws, and five Education Savings Account (ESA) laws.  The survey finds that while there are many mentions of the word "parent" in choice legislation, they are often just legal jargon, feel-good phrases, and window dressing.

According to Robinson, this must change.  He explains, "If states want school choice to truly work, they must have a critical eye for how laws treat parents, how they invite them into the lifelong process of a child’s schooling, and how they call equal attention to both rights and responsibilities."

Robinson explains that if lawmakers want to make school-choice programs more effective so that they live up to their potential, they should focus on tangible and concrete details regarding family involvement in the learning process.  This means passing legislation that acknowledges the role of parents in education, outlining what is expected of them, and offering clear legislation about what they can expect from schools in return.

Robinson also recommends that policymakers and reformers should look beyond policy and invite schools, nonprofits, corporations, and the faith community to partner in this endeavor.  If such changes are made, Robinson concludes that "this process will return our focus to education not just as a means to an end, but as the foundation for a healthy and productive civil society."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports AEI, including its education-policy program.

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